Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Commander, an Epilogue
My family moved my father’s remains here to Israel last night. This is the hesped (eulogy) I gave at the burial.
This week of all weeks, seems so fitting for my father, Shimon Mayer ben Nissan,(z”l) to come here. There has been so much emotion already. We commemorated our fallen on Yom Hazikaron and celebrated the miraculous birth of the modern State of Israel. The opening of this week’s parsha, (portion) Bahar also lends itself beautifully to this moment.
וידבר ה' אל משה בהר סיני לאמר. דבר אל בנ"י ואמרת אלהם כי תבאו אל הארץ אשר אני נתן לכם ושבתה הארץ שבת לה'.
The word Ki Tavo-u, when you come, is in plural form, which is just how my father is arriving, the body and the soul are forever connected, but they are now physically separate entities. Ki Tavo-u is so perfect.
I would like to thank my mother, may she live and be well, for undertaking this sacred task of fulfilling our father’s wishes of being moved to Eretz Yisrael. Moving him was a huge project and intense on so many levels. Ma, I admire your perseverance and strength for seeing it through, despite the various obstacles that arose along the way. It is a chesed shell emet (a true, ultimate kindness). Your devotion to Dad is an example for all of us. May you go from strength to strength. I would also like to thank my sister Sarita and my brother Jonathan for escorting Dad’s remains, not only on the flight from New York to Israel, but also driving his remains themselves from Boston to New York. I’m sure Dad is proud and appreciative of this ultimate fulfillment of Kibud Av. As Dad would say, another Goldberg Super service…
This is all so surreal. What could be more final than death and burial? It is difficult for the mind to conceive that an end that was, is now, no longer an end. But, as Jews, we know that Am Yisrael, Torat Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael can transcend the laws of time and space. The relationship that we Jews have with Hakadosh Baruch-Hu (Gd) pushes us always higher and tests the limits of the natural world. And it is here, in Eretz Yisrael that Am Yisrael has proven that we, as a nation of torah, can defy almost anything that is considered the usual order of things. What was final outside of Eretz Yisrael, has proven to be no longer final. What seemed to be the last stop of my father’s journey on this earth, was really just a pause, a timeout, if you will, until he found his way here, his homeland. The seeming finality, the chesed shel emet that took place in a Boston cemetery, is now improved upon with a chesed shell emet here in eretz Hakosdesh.
Every member of Am Yisrael is part of a collective soul. We say Kaddish for a departed soul, daven and learn for a soul because through torah and mitzvoth we connect not only with each other, and but also with those in the next world. We can lift up our own souls as we raise the souls of the next world ever higher. We know that what we do affects all Jews, past, present, and above all the future, our children. Today, although my father’s death occurred almost three years ago, cherished grandchildren, may they live and be well, can perform the chesed shell emet of laying their treasured grandfather to rest. A son in law, who could not attend the funeral in Boston, can now honor his beloved father in law here in Israel. The emptiness and the void that was created in that absence can now be filled. And as I stand here today, the remorse I felt after not having eulogized my beloved father in Boston, is now a faded memory, an ache that has dissipated and a wound that is healed. I am overwhelmed that Hashem has given me the unworldly gift of a second chance. I am humbled by having the zchut to stand before my father’s holy remains, and honor him in this way.
Shimon Mayer Ben Nissan was a quietly, exceptional person. When he was a young boy, one of his teachers read dad’s initials, S.M. Goldberg , and dubbed him “Simply Magnificent Goldberg” How prophetic that label turned out to be. My father embodied integrity in every aspect of his life. He never gave us long speeches about what was right and wrong, what was good and bad, what was moral and immoral, what was kindness and what was callousness. We learned it all just by watching him. We watched him work late a couple of nights a week to make up for the hours he missed when he left early from work on Fridays, and we learned honesty. He was a mechanical engineer who built power plants, but he rarely told people that he also had a law degree and was an active member of the bar, and we leaned modesty. We were never allowed to use words that degraded children who were challenged with special needs, and we learned compassion. We watched him greet a two year old before cooing over a new baby sibling, because he knew the two year was the one in need of attention, and we learned sensitivity. We watched him laugh at himself all the time and we learned not to take ourselves too seriously. We watched him thank our mother consistently for all she did for him and for us, and we learned to appreciate.
Dad was a man of few words, but when he spoke, everybody listened. He had a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor.
He was the youngest of five children his father died when he was just 13 years old. Though from a secular family, he faithfully said kaddish for his father for 72 years. He was a devoted son to his mother, and he was a devoted husband to our mother for 51 and ½ years. He adored his children and cherished his grandchildren. He was a proud World War 2 veteran. While he was not financially wealthy, he always considered himself the richest of men and he never failed to let us know that we, his family, were the reason that he felt that way.
As a young boy, Dad was introduced to Zionism by his Uncle. My father grabbed hold of it with both hands and held onto it for the rest of his life. He took us all to ZOA meetings when we were little. He nurtured a love for Israel in all five of us. He may not have made it here himself for various personal reasons, but he willingly gave the land of Israel what lives beyond him, his children and grandchildren. When three of us made our way here to Israel and, even better, settled in Yesha, we had his full support and he beamed with pride. He kissed and held his Hyman grandchildren the day we left Newton, knowing how much he would miss them, yet he never complained. He hugged me, and with emotion choking his voice, told me he was proud of me. His support of our aliyah is a gift I will hold dear for the rest of my life. On what turned out to be his last trip to Israel, I had the zchut to introduce him to Efrat. He was thrilled. As he looks down and watches many of his grandchildren living and breathing Torah everyday in Harei Yehuda, in the shomron, and in Herzilia, I hope my father knows that he is watching the fruit that is blossoming from the seeds he planted so long ago.
Dad had many, wonderful, funny expressions. We quote him constantly. There is one line that he said almost every night and it always made us chuckle. I’ve been hearing it in my head over and over again these last few days. When he went to bed, he would say “I’m going to bed to lie down for a few minutes. In case I fall asleep, I’ll be right there.” It comforts me greatly to know, that when the almighty gives Am Yisrael rest from it’s suffering and hardships, and the time arrives for t’chyat Hamaiting, for all Jewish souls of the past to awaken and be together in etretz Yisrael, you Dad, will be right here.
Monday, March 14, 2011
So we waited for the response, the outrage, the condemnation. We waited, for surely it would come. How can humanity not abhor such an atrocity? How could the world not scream out with us? What could the world say about five family members, including three children, being butchered in their sleep, other than this butchery of innocents must end? The world would surely condemn those who slit the throat of a four month old baby, right? Well, we received the world's response, and is was sorely lacking. The world had very little to say in the way of condemnation. Actually, that's not true. The world had plenty to condemn once Israel announced that she will build some new homes in Judea and Samaria. The UN raced to say that Jews building in these areas is not conducive to peace. That’s interesting. When did the UN race to say that killing a Jewish baby, a toddler an older brother and their parents isn’t conducive to peace? Oh, that’s right…it didn’t. I also heard no outrage from the “moderate” muslims of the world. You know the ones, the ones who say that violence isn’t part of Islam, yet do nothing to denounce it.
Israel really needs to stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of her. Obviously, as we’ve seen time and time again, the world really doesn’t mind when Jews are killed. Did the Olympics committee stop the games when the Israeli athletes were massacred? No. Did the world cry out when eight yeshiva boys and young men were slaughtered as they learned over their holy books? No. Did it shout out “NO!” when a whole family was wiped out eating pizza? No. When a Passover Seder was bombed in Netanya did the world denounce the violence and the rhetoric of Jewish hatred that accompanied it? No. Unfortunately, I could go on and on with so many examples of the world looking the other way when Jewish blood is spilled. Six million Jews anyone? No.
The world is not crying for Israel. The world never does. And I don’t mind because I don’t expect it to. What bothers me much, much, more, is how we Jews keep asking, begging for the world’s approval. We keep giving and giving, hoping and hoping. We give our homes, our land, and worst of all, the lives of our children. It never matters what we do. We gave away Gaza. The Fogel family,ironically, was evacuated from Gaza. We were thanked with Katushas and with the world asking us to give more.To the world, nothing Israel does is good enough. It's about time she got that memo and just took care of herself.
When prime minister Netanyahu visited her grandparents’ home after the funeral, 12 year old Tamar Fogel, one of three orphans from the freshly murdered family, challenged him by asking, “If you do something, are you afraid the U.S. will do something to you?” In her hour of unrelenting grief and trauma she had the clarity and the strength to ask such a question right to the prime minister’s face, eye to eye. She’s an inspiration to us all. He, on the other hand, had nothing to say. What could he say?
Israel must be strong and unyielding in its claim on her homeland, every inch of it. From the Golan to Eilat. From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Form Itamar to Hevron. So the world won’t like it. So what? They don’t like us now. The Arabians won’t like it. So what? They want to kill us already. At least we’ll have our homes, our land and Please God, our children. We are surrounded by a culture which celebrates death. After the gruesome murders, candy was handed out in the streets of Gaza in celebration. Why should we care what people like this, who nourish this violence, think?
We, the Nation of Israel are a culture of complete contrast to the culture of death that surrounds us. We plant, we build, and we protect life and save lives all over the world. Once in a while, parts of the world thank us. Once in a while we get some credit. No one could deny what the Israelis did in Haiti. We kept Iraq from obtaining nuclear weapons. However, we mostly stand alone. That’s OK with me too, because I know who we are and what we are. We are the Nation of Israel. We know from where and from whom life comes. We celebrate life. Everyday we pray for it. We cherish it. We raise our glasses to it. We exist for it. We live for it.
May the almighty give comfort to the Fogel family and may the memories of the murdered be for a blessing and may the Almighty avenge their blood. Am Yisrael Chai.
Monday, April 19, 2010
It’s a little after 11:00 am, and the sirens have just sounded for the second time on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day here in
As I walked across Efrat this morning I encountered a group of soldiers on the top of my favorite forest hill, about which I wrote last year at this time. We spoke for a few minutes, and as I went on my way, I thanked them for keeping guard over us. I soon walked past schools and nurseries to see children of all ages, dressed in blue and white, playing outside during recess. I walked past the army’s display of tanks etc. that is already set up for tomorrow’s Independence Day’s celebration. Music about the
As the sky darkens this evening, we will make the transition from sorrow to joy as Independence Day arrives. Israeli flags are everywhere: on homes, buildings, cars, parks, and along highways. The Shield of David blowing in the wind is a sight that never fails to thrill me. The music will blast, the dancing will commence, fireworks will light up the sky, and the smell of barbecues will fill the air. The gratitude I feel today is mixed with sorrow. Tonight my gratitude and pride will have its source in joy. My heart will be full of thanks to the Almighty for: bringing my family here; (actually, I am thankful for that everyday.); that my children are proud Israelis; that my children walk the Torah every single day; that we are part of an ancient people, living in a modern, yet long ago prophesied, miracle.
As I walked in the sunshine today, my thoughts also turned to
Zichronam L’Bracha (may the memory of our fallen be for a blessing).
Monday, June 8, 2009
Today, the 17th day of Sivan, is the first yartzeit (anniversary of someone’s death) of my beloved father Shimon Mayer Ben Nissan. Please indulge me as I pay tribute to him today.
It is hard for me to believe that a year of mourning my father, missing him, of wishing I could have just one more minute with him, has gone by. It has been a year of reflecting how this amazing man influenced not only my life but those of my sister and three brothers as well. My father led by example. He was always truthful, so we learned the importance of honesty. He was unfailingly punctual, teaching us that other’s people’s time was as important as ours. He always kept his word, and we learned the importance of being dependable. He trudged on through hard and sad times, and we learned the attribute of resilience. He openly appreciated his many blessings, and we learned to be thankful for all that we had. Nothing came before his family, and we learned to put family first.
My father embodied integrity. He displayed it in his work and in his relationships. He was a devoted husband and a loving father. He was friendly with an easy going manner who would give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Dad stayed abreast of current events and was extremely well versed in history. He spoke, he would say, only when he had something to say. Dad welcomed a difference of opinion but good luck to the person who couldn’t back up a basis of opinion with facts.
My father was born in 1922 in
Dad was a member of what is now known as the world’s greatest generation. He was a staff sergeant in the Air Corps in World War II serving in the South Pacific. His love for the P-38 fighter plane, of which he was crew chief, would last throughout his lifetime. He told me in his later years that his service in the
Dad graduated from
In my father’s youth, his Uncle Julius introduced him to Zionism by taking him to Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) meetings. My father would later grow up to be a staunch Zionist. He brought us to ZOA meetings as well. He took great pride in three of his children living in
My father was an active member of the bar though he chose not to practice law. Instead, he enjoyed building power plants for Stone and Webster. He loved knowing that when he flicked on the light switch he had something to do with the light going on. After failing miserably at early retirement at the age of 62, he worked at Hanscom Air Force Base full time until he retired, successfully this time, at the age 84. He was admired and respected by his colleagues for his strong work ethic and well liked for a friendly manner and wonderful sense of humor. He amazed his family, doctors and colleagues by missing only a few hours sporadically as he underwent treatment for the blood disorder that would ultimately claim his life.
Among his leisure activities Dad enjoyed avidly following the
Dad was an attentive and hands on father. If someone said to him “
Dad knew how to balance discipline with unwavering affection. He knew that if a parent followed a stern reprimand with a hug and a kiss, the child would likely remember the hug and the kiss over the reprimand. He was right. We loved the simple word games he made up to pass the time during car trips. He made us laugh all the time. Our days ended with his tucking us into bed and lying down with us for a few minutes, which we called “Lay-withs.” When the grandchildren started arriving he had the opportunity to introduce this wonderfully beloved tradition to the next generation.
Dad was also a wonderful father-in-law. He accepted and loved each of our spouses simply because we had chosen them. He was an adored grandfather. It was his first grandchild Amir who coined the phrase that his grandfather was “the greatest man alive.” Jonathan wrote that phrase on the white board outside my father’s hospital room.
As each new grandchild arrived Dad’s pride grew exponentially. When my sister-in-law Revi gave birth to the first Sabra of the family my father started ulpan lessons at
Dad was also attentive to the larger, life changing issues of his children’s lives. When Nissan wanted to make Aliyah my father told him to get his degree at
My father dealt gracefully with whatever came his way. As he lay in his hospital bed that last week of his life he told my mother that if this was his time to go then he was fine with it. He said “I have lived a full life, a life with you better than I could have ever imagined for myself. We have our wonderful children and grandchildren. I’m OK and I want you to be OK.”
A few days later he died being at peace with what he had accomplished and peacefully in his sleep. He appreciated all God had given him and was insightful enough to realize that what he had were the things that ultimately matter the most: a loving and fulfilling relationship with his spouse, children who adored him and grandchildren whom he cherished. He left behind a good name. He raised proud Jews who continue the heritage he bestowed upon them. He loved the State of Israel and the Nation of Israel. The last sound my father ever made, after hours of being unresponsive, was a grunt in response to his Rabbi’s reading of the Shema out loud by his bedside.
“One who walks in perfect innocence and does what is right and speaks the truth from his heart; who has no slander on his tongue… The doer of these shall not falter forever.” (Psalms 15)
Shimon Mayer Ben Nissan. May his memory be a blessing.
I live in Gush Etzion. Efrat to be exact. Efrat and Gush Etzion’s history is rich with stories of the Jewish people dating back to times of the Torah,leading up to its triumphant return to Jewish hands in 1967. We are part of the Hills of Judea thus accounting for Efrat’s many hills and the man-made stairs to help residents climb between levels of buildings. Efrat is an exerciser’s paradise. Residents get a workout wherever they walk. One of my favorite roads is the one my family calls the forest road. It is a very steep hill (as in my legs are burning after I’ve taken only five steps) on a section of Efrat’s security road that abuts a lovely small forest. At the top of the hill is a wonderful playground.
Today my husband and I walked this hill together and as I looked at my watch I was hoping to make it to the top by 11:00. Today is
At 10:59 as I looked up from my wrist watch I saw the soldier. He was standing among the trees on a rock standing guard. He wasn’t quite at the top of the hill. I approached him, pointed to my watch and asked him in Hebrew if I could stand with him. Somehow standing beside a soldier seemed even more important to me than reaching the top of that hill.
He understood that I was referring to the sounding of the siren. He answered “Of course, I will come to you.” We stood there, the three of us together facing
Just last month when we stood on the Eitam, the newest hill of Efrat, I felt blessed. I could tell my children, standing with me as the sun rose, that we were seeing the sun in the same place it was when The Almighty first created it. Right here, in our land, where creation began.
When the countrywide sirens went off last week for Holocaust Memorial Day, I was overwhelmed at being a citizen of a country that protects its citizens and Jews the world over.
Before 1948, no one really worried about protecting us.
Today, the State of Israel, the state of the Jewish People, has an army. It has a really strong army.
And today the people of
Leora Hyman made aliyah three years ago from